Today is March 17, better known far and wide as Saint Patrick’s Day. Traditionally, this date is the supposed death anniversary of Saint Patrick, who is widely considered both the patron saint of Ireland and the man who brought Christianity to the lush green isle several millennia ago. This is as opposed to Saint Eligius, who is considered the patron saint of longshoremen and bowling aficionados. (Uh, wait a minute, that may not be right…) The good citizens of Ireland treat this day with general solemnity and recognition of Irish pride; indeed, this is an official public holiday in Ireland.
Those who are part of the worldwide Irish diaspora have been credited with popularizing Saint Patrick’s Day on a global basis. Thanks to the specter of commercialization this day has gained a life of its own here in America, especially since the mid 20th century. Anything with a green and/or Irish theme seemingly pops up everywhere at this time of year: Greeting card aisles are stocked with “Happy St. Patrick’s Day” cards. Parades are held. Traditional Irish music is played. Bodies of water are dyed green. Sports teams who don’t have green in their color scheme add it to their uniforms. Party shops are loaded with green- or shamrock-themed party wares. Speaking of parties, semi-responsible adults use this day as an excuse to drink beer and act uncouth (ugh). And people of all ages put on real green clothing, fake Irish accents, and even faker Irish names (i.e. adding a “Mc” to the beginning of their surnames).
And it’s all done to foster, for better and (much) worse, Irish stereotypes, usually to a humorous or joyous intent if not always having a humorous or joyous effect. True story: When I lived in the Green Bay area, a morning radio team (classic rock station, of course) had an annual tradition of “staging” (note the quote marks) a “St. Patrick’s Day Parade” down the main boulevard of one of the cities in the area, complete with “marching bagpipe bands” (again, note the quote marks) with names that stereotype the various non-Irish European cultures that populate much of Wisconsin. Definitely stereotypical, in more ways than the listener would expect on that day. But at least their pointed non-stereotype jokes throughout the routine hit the mark.
Admittedly, as a naive kid of single-digit ages, I got roped into the Saint Patrick’s Day rigmarole. For example, I would ask everyone I encountered, fellow kid or otherwise, “Hey, why aren’t you wearing green today? You won’t get good luck now.” Sometimes I would get away with asking that despite not wearing a hint of green on my own person, not even a green button.
But as I grew older and more wiser, I started seeing Saint Patrick’s Day for what it is: Just another day that just happens to be marked in a special way on the calendar. (No offense, of course, to the fair people of Ireland who treat this day with utmost respect.) There are only a couple of minor items in my closet (both male and female sides) that have some sort of green, but I don’t drag them out and put them on just for the sake of this day. I don’t put on a fake Irish accent or add a “Mc” to my name. I don’t even buy a Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s. And I most definitely do not drink copious amounts of green beer and party until the morning light (I’m a teetotaler, of course).
But if there is one Irish stereotype I admit to imbibing on today, it’s the thought of luck. When reading up on Saint Patrick’s Day, I saw only one reference to luck, that being the tossing of a shamrock over the shoulder after taking a drink, for good luck. I had always dismissed shamrocks and superstitions involving them as being equivalent to imagery of leprechauns — nothing more than representations of negative Irish stereotypes and symbols of a feeling of fortune not everyone can obtain.
But a couple of years ago on Saint Patrick’s Day, my Firefox browser displayed this:
And when I saw that image appear in my browser, it hit me like a ton of lead. What was once (and still is?) regarded as Saint Patrick’s way of metaphorically describing the Christian Holy Trinity has become the quick go-to symbol of good luck, in lieu of the very rare four-leaf clover. But more than the imagery, it’s the words that accompany it, or at least what accompanied this particular shamrock: Good health. Good luck. Happiness. On the 17th of March and every day. At the end of a week when, at least professionally, I haven’t had a lot of good luck (and I feel downright scared about my work status), actually gaining good luck and happiness can feel very elusive elusive. But it’s something I can hope for, if not make it possible. And if I can’t entirely make it possible, at least being wished a lifetime of good luck and happiness, and wishing the same on others, can bring nothing but warmth to a heart that needs it.
So, on this Saint Patrick’s Day, here’s hoping that, as Firefox so aptly communicated, you have three wishes coming your way — wishes of good health, good luck, and warm happiness, not just today but every single day. Enjoy your day.